Mothers and their babies at risk

The provincial health department has denied the alleged shortage, acknowledging the shortage that occurred last year. (File Photo)

According to a doctor at Thabazimbi Hospital, who wished to remain anonymous, patients have been sent home without an injection which could pose a risk during their next pregnancy and could be fatal to those babies.

What it means 

For the past three weeks, patients with Rhesus (Rh) factor negative were discharged without being given the anti-D immunoglobulin injection after giving birth. According to US-based medical research Mayo Clinic, “Rhesus (Rh) factor is an inherited protein found on the surface of red blood cells.” People are Rh-positive if they have the protein, and negative if they don’t.

A problem can arise if a mother is Rh-negative, and her baby is positive or vice versa. If during birth, there is contact between the mother and baby’s blood, the mother’s body might produce Rh antibodies to the baby’s red blood cells. The worry arises in the next pregnancy

“If your next baby is Rh-positive, these Rh antibodies can cross the placenta and damage the baby’s red blood cells. This could lead to life-threatening anaemia, a condition in which red blood cells are destroyed faster than the baby’s body can replace them. Red blood cells are needed to carry oxygen throughout the body.”

But the department of health in Limpopo denies there is a shortage of the anti-D immunoglobulin injection at their facilities and pharmaceutical depot.

The problem 

 “We have been without the anti-D for the past two weeks. I had to discharge a patient without it last week,” says the doctor.

“The anti-D prevents the formation of antibodies that can harm the body. The baby’s life is at risk because the mother’s immune system will attack the baby’s immune system because their blood doesn’t match,” he adds

The doctor indicates that patients should get the injection within three days after giving birth and they’ve advised patients to purchase the medication at their local pharmacy.

“At the moment we don’t have alternative medication. Unfortunately, we have to send them home and advise them to buy but it, which costs around R750 to R800 and patients have up to 72 hours after delivery [to take it],” he says.

What the department says 

However, the provincial department of health has denied the alleged shortage, acknowledging the shortage that occurred last year.  

“During 2018, there was a national shortage of human anti-D immunoglobulin. Through the National Department of Health’s intervention, an alternative supply was found on the international market for six months,” says the spokesperson, Neil Shikwambana. – Health-e News 


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